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Funk Digs Up Old Game, Qualifies For Hometown Open

Fred Funk has built his golf game and Tour career on accuracy and control, never power.  Once his control of his game started to slip away earlier this year without improvement in sight, he began to wonder how much worse it could get until he would have to retire.

Funk has only made one of six cuts on the PGA Tour this year (at age 55, mind you), and he has not been the Champions Tour force that he once was.  Funk bottomed out with a 72nd-place showing last week in the Principal Charity Classic, and if he decided to withdraw from U. S. Open qualifying, it would seem to have made sense.

But these were different circumstances for Funk.  Even though he had to adjust, in the span of one day, from facing the over-50 set to facing a cast of fresh young faces, mostly Nationwide Tour members who had just finished competing in the Melwood Prince Georges County Open.  Even though he would have to deal with the rigors of 36 holes in one day, bad knees and all.

These were different circumstances because of the opportunity.  This year the Open is being contested at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, an easy drive from Funk's hometown of Takoma Park.  As a 55-year old, it is next to impossible that funk would ever have the chance to play in a tournament so near to his hometown ever again, let alone a PGA Tour major.  No matter the bleak outlook, both physically and mentally, Funk had no choice but to give it a go.  The chance to play in front of rabid friends and family as the only local competitor, at his national championship no less, was just too much to pass by.  If it were to be his farewell major on the PGA Tour, how fitting would it be?

Funk also had good vibes on his side as well, not that karma means absolutely anything in golf.  He had successfully qualified for the Open at Woodmont in 2007 and 2009, and he would be competing again at Woodmont this time.  With 111 other players, all younger than Funk, competing with him for a total of ten spots, the prospects were not great.  But they at least gave him a fighting chance, if he could find the game that a 8-time PGA Tour winner and Players champion obviously has.

Funk has probably had the best overall career of anyone at yesterday's qualifier, and he ultimately proved it on the course.  Rounds of 67 and 68 left him tied for third, and he will move on to take on golf's elite at Congressional, at the age of 55.  The course will measure over 7500 yards, probably too long for him to realistically compete by his own admission, but he'll be there.  Not with a good chance, but with at the very least a fighting chance.  Just like in the qualifier.

A home game for Funk at a major, possibly his final major, at the age of 55.  He didn't need any reporter to have to remind him as he completed his round.  Talking to the press after posting his second-round 68 at the more difficult of Woodmont's two courses, he began to tear up.

Nobody needed to ask why.

It is not likely, but there just may be one golfer that has a chance to draw crowds rivaling Tiger's at the Open next weekend.  And that golfer is one who dug up just enough of his old game at just the right time, maybe when even he had started to doubt himself.

Fred, you're going to be a star next week at Congressional.  No matter how you play, make sure you enjoy it.

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Comments

Great story! Hope for the 55+ crowd yet. I'm rooting for all the "old" guys this weekend.

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